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Full text of "A search in secret Egypt"

WITH A MAGICIAN OF CAIRO               91
him, as typical of something that frequently happened, a story of a magician who had evoked a genie but could not banish it again, with the result that the latter turned on him and caused him severe injuries. The boy was put to the comparatively harmless study of law.
I understood why it was impossible to expect the old man to reveal his secrets, whether they were genuine or false, because it was their very mystery which gave him his power and reputation; I decided to press him no further. It was perfectly natural that he should be loath to let go information upon which his fame and fortune depended.
But if I could not break down his reticence, I thought, as I sat once again in his dusty room, perhaps I could persuade him to explain the general theories which lay behind those secrets; perhaps I could find out from the fountain-head of a reputed expert what all this talk of genii meant of which I had heard so much in Egypt. And, even whilst I talked to him I could hear, coming through the barred window, the steady, rhythmic tapping of a tom-tom drum. In a neighbour's house a minor witch-doctoring sheikh was trying to drive out of the body of a sick man, by means of drumming and incantations, the genie which was supposed to obsess him and to be responsible for the illness.
"Your people disbelieve in our ancient magic," he interposed upon my thoughts, "merely because it uses forces they do not understand, the forces of the genii/'
I remained silent. I couJd comprehend his Oriental attitude without much difficulty, otherwise I should never have been interested in the East.
Genii were everywhere. If a man were ill, unlucky or unhappy, an evil genie was supposed to have invaded his body or life; if he were fortunate or powerful, a good genie was equally responsible.
"What are these genii?" I asked the old man at length.
I found him in a friendly mood.
"Know that these invisible creatures do truly exist, even though sight of them has almost entirely been lost to the people of our time," he explained. "Just as there exist animals in the world of matter, so there exist spirit-creatures in the other world who are not human, who have never been spirits of mortal men, but who were born directly into -the spirit world. Such are the genii. Nevertheless, do not mistake them for the